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CASE: Social Justice Society (SJS) Officers v. Mayor Alfredo S. Lim (G.R. Nos.

187836 and
187916)
DATE: 25 November 2014
PONENTE: J. Perez
FACTS

On 12 October 2001, a Memorandum of Agreement was entered into by oil companies


(Chevron, Petron and Shell) and Department of Energy for the creation of a Master Plan
to address and minimize the potential risks and hazards posed by the proximity of
communities, business and offices to Pandacan oil terminals without affecting security
and reliability of supply and distribution of petroleum products.
On 20 November 2001, the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) enacted Ordinance No. 8027
which reclassifies the land use of Pandacan, Sta. Ana, and its adjoining areas from
Industrial II to Commercial I.
Owners and operators of the businesses affected by the reclassification were given six (6)
months from the date of effectivity to stop the operation of their businesses. It was later
extended until 30 April 2003.
On 4 December 2002, a petition for mandamus was filed before the Supreme Court (SC)
to enforce Ordinance No. 8027.
Unknown to the SC, the oil companies filed before the Regional Trial Court of Manila an
action to annul Ordinance No. 8027 with application for writs of preliminary prohibitory
injunction and preliminary mandatory injunction. The same was issued in favor of
Chevron and Shell. Petron, on the other hand, obtained a status quo on 4 August 2004.
On 16 June 2006, Mayor Jose Atienza, Jr. approved Ordinance No. 8119 entitled An
Ordinance Adopting the Manila Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Regulations
of 2006 and Providing for the Administration, Enforcement and Amendment thereto.
This designates Pandacan oil depot area as a Planned Unit Development/Overlay Zone.
On 7 March 2007, the SC granted the petition for mandamus and directed Mayor Atienza
to immediately enforce Ordinance No. 8027. It declared that the objective of the
ordinance is to protect the residents of manila from the catastrophic devastation that will
surely occur in case of a terrorist attack on the Pandacan Terminals.
The oil companies filed a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) on the 7 March 2007
Decision. The SC later resolved that Ordinance No. 8027 is constitutional and that it was
not impliedly repealed by Ordinance No. 8119 as there is no irreconcilable conflict
between them.
SC later on denied with finality the second MR of the oil companies.
On 14 May 2009, during the incumbency of Mayor Alfredo Lim (Mayor Lim), the SP
enacted Ordinance No. 8187. The Industrial Zone under Ordinance No. 8119 was limited
to Light Industrial Zone, Ordinance No. 8187 appended to the list a Medium and a Heavy
Industrial Zone where petroleum refineries and oil depots are expressly allowed.
Petitioners Social Justice Society Officers, Mayor Atienza, et.al. filed a petition for
certiorari under Rule 65 assailing the validity of Ordinance No. 8187. Their contentions
are as follows:

It is an invalid exercise of police power because it does not promote the general
welfare of the people
- It is violative of Section 15 and 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution as well as
health and environment related municipal laws and international conventions and
treaties, such as: Clean Air Act; Environment Code; Toxic and Hazardous Wastes
Law; Civil Code provisions on nuisance and human relations; Universal
Declaration of Human Rights; and Convention on the Rights of the Child
- The title of Ordinance No. 8187 purports to amend or repeal Ordinance No. 8119
when it actually intends to repeal Ordinance No. 8027
On the other hand, the respondents Mayor Lim, et.al. and the intervenors oil companies
contend that:
- The petitioners have no legal standing to sue whether as citizens, taxpayers or
legislators. They further failed to show that they have suffered any injury or threat
of injury as a result of the act complained of
- The petition should be dismissed outright for failure to properly apply the related
provisions of the Constitution, the Rules of Court, and/or the Rules of Procedure
for Environmental Cases relative to the appropriate remedy available
- The principle of the hierarchy of courts is violated because the SC only exercises
appellate jurisdiction over cases involving the constitutionality or validity of an
ordinance under Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution
- It is the function of the SP to enact zoning ordinance without prior referral to the
Manila Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeals; thus, it may repeal all or part of
zoning ordinance sought to be modified
- There is a valid exercise of police power
On 28 August 2012, the SP enacted Ordinance No. 8283 which essentially amended the
assailed Ordinance to exclude the area where petroleum refineries and oil depots are
located from the Industrial Zone. The same was vetoed by Mayor Lim.

ISSUES
1.
2.
3.
4.

WON there are violations of environmental laws


WON the principle of hierarchy of courts is violated
WON the petitioners have legal standing to sue
WON Ordinance No. 8187 is unconstitutional in relation to the Pandacan Terminals

RULING
1. None. The scope of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases is embodied in
Section 2, Part I, Rule I thereof. It states that the Rules shall govern the procedure in
civil, criminal and special civil actions before the MeTCs, MTCCs, MTCs and MCTCs,
and the RTCs involving the enforcement or violations of environmental and other related
laws, rules and regulations such as but not limited to: R.A. No. 6969, Toxic Substances
and Hazardous Waste Act; R.A. No. 8749, Clean Air Act; Provisions in C.A. No. 141;
and other existing laws that relate to the conservation, development, preservation,
protection and utilization of the environment and natural resources.

Notably, the aforesaid Rules are limited in scope. While, indeed, there are
allegations of violations of environmental laws in the petitions, these only serve as
collateral attacks that would support the other position of the petitioners the protection
of the right to life, security and safety.
2. No. The SC held that it is true that the petitions should have been filed with the RTC, it
having concurrent jurisdiction with the SC over a special civil action for prohibition, and
original jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief.
However, the petitions at bar are of transcendental importance warranting a
relaxation of the doctrine of hierarchy of courts. This is in accordance with the wellentrenched principle that rules of procedure are not inflexible tools designed to hinder or
delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Their strict and rigid
application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate, rather than promote
substantial justice, must always be eschewed. (Jaworski v. PAGCOR, 464 Phil. 375)
3. Yes. The SC referred to their Decision dated 7 March 2007 which ruled that the
petitioners in that case have a legal right to seek the enforcement of Ordinance No. 8027
because the subject of the petition concerns a public right, and they, as residents of
Manila, have a direct interest in the implementation of the ordinances of the city.
No different are herein petitioners who seek to prohibit the enforcement of the
assailed ordinance, and who deal with the same subject matter that concerns a public
right.
In like manner, the preservation of the life, security and safety of the people is
indisputably a right of utmost importance to the public. Certainly, the petitioners, as
residents of Manila, have the required personal interest to seek relief to protect such right.
4. Yes. In striking down the contrary provisions of the assailed Ordinance relative to the
continued stay of the oil depots, the SC followed the same line of reasoning used in its 7
March 2007 decision, to wit:
Ordinance No. 8027 was enacted for the purpose of promoting a sound
urban planning, ensuring health, public safety and general welfare of the residents
of Manila. The Sanggunian was impelled to take measures to protect the residents
of Manila from catastrophic devastation in case of a terrorist attack on the
Pandacan Terminals. Towards this objective, the Sanggunian reclassified the area
defined in the ordinance from industrial to commercial.
The following facts were found by the Committee on Housing,
Resettlement and Urban Development of the City of Manila which
recommended the approval of the ordinance:
(1) The depot facilities contained 313.5 million liters of highly flammable
and highly volatile products which include petroleum gas, liquefied

petroleum gas, aviation fuel, diesel, gasoline, kerosene and fuel oil
among others;
(2) The depot is open to attack through land, water and air;
(3) It is situated in a densely populated place and near Malacaang Palace;
and
(4) In case of an explosion or conflagration in the depot, the fire could
spread to the neighboring communities.
The Ordinance was intended to safeguard the rights to life, security and
safety of all the inhabitants of Manila and not just of a particular class. The depot
is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a representation of western interests which
means that it is a terrorist target. As long as there is such a target in their midst,
the residents of Manila are not safe. It therefore becomes necessary to remove
these terminals to dissipate the threat.
The same best interest of the public guides the present decision. The Pandacan oil
depot remains a terrorist target even if the contents have been lessened. In the absence of
any convincing reason to persuade the Court that the life, security and safety of the
inhabitants of Manila are no longer put at risk by the presence of the oil depots, the SC
holds that the Ordinance No. 8187 in relation to the Pandacan Terminals is invalid and
unconstitutional.
For, given that the threat sought to be prevented may strike at one point or
another, no matter how remote it is as perceived by one or some, the SC cannot allow the
right to life be dependent on the unlikelihood of an event. Statistics and theories of
probability have no place in situations where the very life of not just an individual but of
residents of big neighbourhoods is at stake.
DISPOSITIVE PORTION
1. Ordinance No. 8187 is declared unconstitutional and invalid with respect to the continued
stay of the Pandacan Oil Terminals.
2. The incumbent mayor of the City of Manila is ordered to cease and desist from enforcing
Ordinance No. 8187 and to oversee the relocation and transfer of the oil terminals out of
the Pandacan area
3. The oil companies shall, within a non-extendible period of forty-five (45) days, submit to
the RTC Manila, Branch 39 an updated comprehensive plan and relocation schedule,
which relocation shall be completed not later than six (6) months from the date the
required document is submitted.